Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today...
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Life & Style: Unisex Fashion Trend Endures for EveryoneJakarta Globe, May 18th
Women are also veering towards functional masculine wristwatches with big faces like Panerai, instead of the traditional delicate feminine watches, which are almost impossible to read. Ironically, they seem more inclined toward what James Bond would...Read more
Fine Italian WatchesBarron's, May 18th
In December, a rare stainless-steel cushion-shaped diver's wristwatch made circa 1954 by Panerai for the Egyptian navy was sold at a Christie's auction in New York for a record $326,500. The Egiziano Piccolo had a presale estimate of $80,000 to $120...Read more
Malls, retailers thrive as industry trade show prepares to descend on Las VegasLas Vegas Review-Journal, May 17th
The 21-year-old center has had 10 new retailers open recently, including first-to-market brands Alfred Dunhill, Hublot, Breitling, Panerai, L.K. Bennett, Sandro and Sergio Rossi. Six more new tenants are coming soon including Van Cleef & Arpels, M...Read more
Voiles d'Antibes Trophée Panerai Port Vauban près de NiceNice Rendez-Vous, May 17th
Depuis 1996 "Les Voiles d'Antibes", grande célébration du yachting organisée chaque année autour de la première semaine de juin, marquent l'ouverture du circuit méditerranéen pour les Yachts de Tradition et les Classes Métriques ainsi que la première...Read more
Richemont Chairman to Take a BreakWall Street Journal, May 15th
Under Mr. Rupert, the company bought high-end watch brands Vacheron Constantin and Officine Panerai in the 1990s. Mr. Rupert's sabbatical prompted praise from his biggest rival, Nick Hayek, CEO of Swatch Group AG. Mr. Hayek called Mr. Rupert "a real...Read more
The Pocket PamLivemint, April 25th
Panerai's new piece, the Pocket Watch Tourbillon GMT Ceramica 59 mm combines a mouthful of a name with a fantastic movement, minimal and utterly contemporary Panerai design. And there are homages to the Panerai wristwatches everywhere, lest we...Read more
Hublot Creates Ferrari Engine Block For The WristForbes, April 24th
Past partners like Omega and Girard-Perregaux tended to simply place the Ferrari logo on the dial of existing models, while Panerai created a whole new range. In my opinion, the marriage of two exceedingly well-known Italian brands in Panerai and...Read more
Panerai launches Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days AutomaticRetail Jeweller, April 24th
Officine Panerai has released the Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days Automatic – the first from the watch brand to introduce a combination of the Luminor 1950 case, 42 mm diameter and a white dial. The movement is the automatic P.9000 calibre, with a power...Read more